Let’s try this scenario; a mother and father had a very bright son who was totally bored with school. He was coming up for graduation and was not interested in considering going on to university. He had no idea what career he wanted to follow; he felt he needed a break from years of schooling. This can be the case for many young people. So this young fellow travelled and saw the world. He felt he needed some space. His parents keep encouraging him to get his act together and make up his mind what he wanted to do. He kept putting his decision on the back burner of his life. When he finally got around to making up his mind he discovered that he was not qualified to get into the courses he wanted. His past studies were out of date and preference was given to younger students who were more up to date. His procrastinating came home to roost and the consequences of his earlier decisions caught up with him. Thankfully his parents had the wisdom not to say, ’we told you so.’
There can be times in life when we get into ways of thinking and ways of living that are not worthy of us as persons and as Christians. We cut people out of our lives because they are different from us. They are not from ‘here’, they are not of our faith, their ideas of the church are different from ours, and we can’t agree with nor accept their life styles. We resent people we are convinced are living off us, the taxpayers. We can’t sympathize with families on welfare or men and women looking for handouts on the streets or at intersections. We do not see them as our brothers and sisters. We have nothing in common with them.
Maybe we’ve let ourselves get into relationships that are not spiritually healthy for ourselves or the other person. Maybe we get ourselves into taking God and the things of God, His love for us or our relationship with God too much for granted; we’ve lost our attitude of gratitude toward God. God is certainly not a priority for us. God is on the back burner of our lives.
Probably we all have ways of thinking, ways of living and ways of relating to others that fall short of the teachings of Jesus. In the gospel Jesus talks about two local disasters about which the people were all too familiar. With great love he tells those listening to him that unless they ‘repent’ unless they change their ways and listen to and live by what he is trying to teach them, they too can perish, they too can be lost. Jesus is telling us that there are consequences to the decisions we make in our lives, for good or for ill.
I read this about the parable of the fig tree in today’s gospel.
“The Palestinian fig tree bears fruit ten months of the year, and so one can reasonably expect to find fruit at almost any time. The time sequence regarding fig trees is this: first, the tree would have three years to grow after planting. The fruit of the next three years is considered forbidden according to the Book of Leviticus. Again according to Leviticus the fruit of the seventh year is considered clean and ought to be offered to the Lord.”
The owner in this parable has come seeking fruit for three years, hence it is nine years since planting, and the situation begins to look hopeless. He rightly urges that it be rooted out, but the gardener urges “mercy,” give the tree yet another chance. The owner is willing to give it one more chance to be fruitful, after that it’s finished, its place will be taken by a tree that will bear fruit,”
This holy season of Lent calls us to ‘repent’. It challenges us to take a serious look at how closely our lives come close to the teachings of Jesus, teachings of love, teachings of forgiveness, teachings of care for one another, teachings of staying close to the God who loves us. I think the last line in the movie “Gone with the Wind” was Scarlet O’Hara saying, ‘I’ll think of that tomorrow.’ No, the gospel tells us to think of that today and do something about it today.
We began this season of Lent being smudged with ashes and told ‘turn away from sin and believe the good news’. The good news is that the Son of God emptied himself of divinity and embraced our humanity and loved us even unto dying for us on the cross. Only this painful death could silence him from telling us that we are loved by God. Remembering this great love of the crucified Christ may each of us be blessed with the grace to turn away from whatever mindset or lifestyle that is not of God and with God’s grace try to deepen our own relation with the Christ who loved us and gave his life for us.